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by ZweiBieren Jordan and Petra  Looking back after descending from the Tombs of the Kings; 
		the Urn Tomb vendor is the white dot near the center; Petra
Jordan: Amman, Jaresh, Madaba, Petra - November 27-Dec 1
Selected pictures from Jordan
More pictures from Jordan
Saturday, Nov. 27 — Fly to Amman
  In the AM we relaxed around the Cairo Marriott and repacked. In the PM we flew to Amman, arriving after dinner. In the hour-and-a-half flight, Egypt Air did manage to feed dinner to each of us. We met guide Hazim at the airport, bused to the Geneva Hotel, and bedded down. But first we had to get hotel maintenance to fix our television and sink drain. The bad news: there were these problems. The good news: they got fixed quite quickly. The sink repair muddied the bathroom floor and it was expeditiously mopped up by yet another worker.
Sunday, Nov. 28 — Amman, Dead Sea, Hazim is a father!

AM: Tour Amman. The Citadel is a fine museum/ruin with great descriptions of the various inhabitants/conquerors of Amman and Jordan. Next was a visit to some shops; I stayed on the bus. And then a roman ampitheater.

Sunset at Dead Sea resort
Sunset at Dead Sea resort

PM: We bused the few miles to the Jordan side of the Dead Sea. Our destination was a classy modern touristic resort. Pools on two levels. Large clean changing rooms. Stone steps down two more levels to the Sea. We lunched and hung out. I finally swam in the Dead Sea. The upside is that I never have to do it again. There was no downside, you just float in the water.

During the bus ride, Hazim described the Red-to-Dead canal. It is planned to drain water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, replenishing the latter, generating electricity, and powering a deslination plant to provide fresh water. Otherwise the Dead Sea will go dry because its source, the Jordan River, is being diverted upstream for consumption and crops. There are many environmental considereations and the cost is as yet too high to be practical.

On the ride back to Amman Hazim announced that his recently pregnant wife had delivered a daughter that very afternoon (a week earely or he would not have been working). He handed us over to another guide, Omar, who was younger and more energetic, though not quite as organized. Their temperments may reflect the fact that Hazim is a Bedouin from southern Jordan, while Omar is an Arab from the north.

Monday, Nov. 29 — Jerash, Ajloun, sick in my room

This day was an optional tour to Destinations north of Amman, Jerash and Ajloun. Having seen enough old ruins, I opted out. And stayed in the room with my nose running like the Nile. Before she left, S suggested I get me down to the pharmacy. But I prefered wallowing in misery and watching TV. When she returned in the evening, S got the pills. I took them and the cold went away. I had feared flying because my ears get blocked up with colds. Didn't happen, thanks to Snip and Levox.

In the evening we visited the home of a man who had been a student of S in Pittsburgh. He and his wife now work for UN-related agencies in Amman. They have a fine home and can afford nannies for two shifts; although as in most mideastern countries, household help is not difficult to afford. They felt that Jordan is a promising country. However, water sufficiency is a concern.

Tuesday, Nov. 30 — Madaba, Mosaics, Bus to Petra

Although the main goal of the day was to get to Petra for the next day, the theme of the day was mosaics, both old and new.

Our first stop was Mt. Nebo. Deuteronomy tells us that a Mount Nebo was where God showed Moses the promised land. Our Mt. Nebo may or may not be the same one. The Mount is, however celebrated as a memorial to Moses, despite Deuteronomy going on to state that Moses was buried in a valley near "Bethpeor." Mt. Nebo housed (in a tent) the first mosaic of the day.

More stops were in Madaba. First a mosiac factory. It employs handicapped workers, a plus. They work works upside-down, gluing the chips lightly to a cloth where the design is laid out. Then the entire ensemble is flipped over and pressed onto a platter of grout. This seals the chips to a backing. The cloth is unglued, leaving a flat surface and revealing the mosaic. In the shop, about ten times the size of the "factory" were displayed boxes with elaborate inlays. By asking how it was done, I was invited to visit the basement ship where they were made. The trick is that for each section of the design a bundle of sticks is gathered. The bundle is them sliced thinly to make the veneer strips that are pasted onto the box. Shell pieces are then inlaid by cutting out a space and inserting a piece of shell. The worker demonstrated this to me free-hand. The little piece of shell exactly fit the hole he had chiselled out.

S cuts her birthday cake
Cutting the cake

For our last stops before lunch, we saw two more huge, ancient mosiacs. One showing wine making and the other a map of the Holy Land.

Lunch time held a surprise: Omar had laid on a scrumptious cake for S's birthday. Then we boarded the bus one last time and motored on down to Petra and the Guest House.

The Guest House was clean, the beds were great, and we slept well. The building is absolutely beautiful and could house a really great hotel. It is supposed to be related to the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel. Let me cite some of the reasons--of my own and others--for thinking the Guest House is really part of the Clown Plaza:
  • The overhead lights in the bar were full of fly carcasses.
  • A phone was missing in the lobby with bare wires sticking out.
  • Our beds were a strange size between single and double. Too wide to fit comfortably in the room and each too narrow for two. More sensible and useful choices could have been two singles, one double, one queen, one king, or a single and a double.
  • There was no hair dryer. One guest did get a hair dryer from the desk, and it worked at first, but then failed.
  • I asked for an extension cord to connect my breathing machine. Like all requests made to the front desk, it was promised in "five minutes." Sometimes that happened. But the extension cord never arrived.
  • The air conditioning was turned off. To be fair, the windows opened and had screens and the room could be made quite comfortable by opening the windows.
  • The outside pool was unheated, and thus unusable.
  • The power failed at least twice.
  • Every time the power failed and came back on, the TV turned on.
  • There was no cable or satellite TV. (It had been turned off for the season.)
  • There was no safe in the room. The safe at the front desk was inconvenient.
  • There was no clothes line in the bathroom.
  • The tub was about half the length of a real tub.
  • One of the lamp bulbs was burned out. (In itself forgivable; just another symptom of laxity.)
  • Some people felt the coffee was not good. (I myself rarely complain about food.)
  • It was possible to have oranges or bananas with breakfast; as long as you selected your fruit at dinner the night before and brought it back with you for breakfast.
  • There was confusion as to which tables were for our group. The waiter ungraiously made us wait.
  • When some of us arrived early for breakfast, the manager arived and publicly chastised the wait staff. It was an uncomfortable scene, and completely uncalled for.
  • Only one elevator worked.
You, dear reader may feel I have been picking nits.I have. Any three or five of these items could be understandable. But so many? The building should house a great hotel. And it can. All that is needed is to replace the general manager with someone who knows how to run a hotel. Alas, in a country of only seven million citizens, such talent may be rare.
Wednesday, Dec. 1 — Petra!

Petra. Petra! A place of wonder. See the pictures. Google it for more; I recommend nabataea.net. So all I'm going to do here is describe the path of my journey through the wonderland:

We hired a buggy to take us through the Siq to the Treasury. We could have done the inbound trip without it, but it felt good on the uphill return. The path was just steep enough that our driver could not stop the horse lest they be unable to start up again.

Without waiting for the tour group to finish walking to the Treasury, I walked on down the Street of Facades and up to the ampitheater. Then I crossed the main path and climbed up to the Tombs of the Kings. From there I saw a roof to the west which I thought ought to be our assigned restaurant meeting place. The path to it crossed a bridge over an otherwise impassable ravine. The roof turned out to cover an old Byzantine church with still more mosaics.

Behind the church a work crew was moving rocks. Five or six of them would wrestle a rock into a payloader which then dumped it into a truck. The truck carried it about 300 yards and dumped it again. A few onlookers watched from just under the roof.

I walked further down past the church to the gates at the end of the Corda. The restaurant was nearby. By then my quest was in earnest, seeking a fluid download station. Well, waddayaknow, the retaurant was part of the Guest House organization. So, not entirely surprisingly, the restroom was closed for reconstruction and guests were directed to a nearby porta-potty.

Susan in the topmost tomb
Susan in the topmost tomb
Susan takes a break in the Street of Facades
Susan takes a break

We all lunched together. S decided she wanted the challenge of personally visiting the Tombs of the Kings, some 300 steps above the valley floor. Especially since I offered an ascent past the church that mostly avoided climbing steps. At every opportunity, I suggested to her a shorter, easier path. Nope. She was deteremined. And she made it. Checkout the pictures.

Thursday, Dec. 2 — Relax, Bus/plane to Cairo

Some went on the optional trip to Waddi Rum this AM. S and I opted to rest. I worked on programming the multi-tasking part of CrumbStore for my tutorial site. In the PM we all hopped on the bus for the drive to the airport and our flight back to Cairo. Arrived in hotel room at 10 PM with a wakeup call for 5:40 AM.

Friday, Dec. 3 — FLY HOME!

We answered the wakeup and breakfasted. The breakfast manager seemed a little insecure, personally asking us to fill out reaction sheets. His breakfast was fine, he had nothing to fear. There was even fruit.

We bused to the airport, got through security, and onto the plane. The movie selection was poor. I watched enough of both Marmaduke and Garfield to get their flavor. Then I resorted to listening to the dance video for its great jaz and watching Momix for its amazing juggling acts. Two meals. Changed planes in JFK and arrived home without incident.

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